Conway, NH —State legislators will be visiting Conway on Wednesday, April 19th, when the new House Special Committee on Childcare holds a field hearing at Conway Public Library. The hearing is the first in a series around the state aiming to bring rural perspectives to the conversation around New Hampshire’s childcare crisis.
“These field hearings are meant to ensure the committee hears directly from North Country voices, both families and providers. We need a fuller picture of how this crisis is unfolding all over the state, not just down south,” said Rep. David Paige (D-Conway), who is organizing the series of field hearings. “New Hampshire has three children under the age of six for every licensed childcare slot available,” he continued. “That’s unacceptable. The good news, though, is that there is broad bipartisan agreement regarding the severity of the crisis and the need for action. I’m tremendously hopeful that we will see meaningful progress over the current biennium.”
Appointed by Speaker Sherman Packard, the special committee is charged with hearing childcare-related bills and proposing legislative solutions to address New Hampshire’s childcare crisis.
"I am excited the committee will be going into the communities to listen to the struggles of everyday citizens,” wrote the committee chairman, Ross Berry (R-Manchester). “Parents and childcare workers are unable to make it to Concord in the middle of the day to testify and this is an opportunity for their voice to be heard. I want to thank Rep. David Paige for setting this up and advocating for his community to be one of the places we visit."
According to a report released last month by UNH’s Carsey Institute of Public Policy, 52% of New Hampshire parents with children under age five reported difficulty finding childcare during the last year, with the most common challenges they report being a lack of openings and a lack of affordable options.
The lack of affordable care also exacerbates local workforce shortages, according to Michelle Cruz, Executive Director of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. “The twin shortages of affordable housing and affordable childcare are maybe the two biggest issues locally impacting our available labor force. This upcoming hearing is a great opportunity for our local small business owners to speak up about how this crisis impacts them as well as to advocate for the young parents in the Valley who are unable to find the childcare they need.”
“Addressing New Hampshire’s childcare crisis is absolutely a workforce issue,” Paige added. “It’s a child well-being issue. And frankly, it’s also a gender equality issue, because the career impact is disproportionately on women.”
According to the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, the shortage of childcare is a major factor underlying the unequal recovery in labor force participation between women and men. While men’s labor force participation has rebounded since the start of the pandemic, younger women’s labor force participation in New Hampshire remains well below pre-pandemic levels. From the beginning of the pandemic to 2022, the labor force participation of women aged 20 to 24 dropped from 78.1 percent to 64.6 percent. For women aged 25 to 34 years, it dropped from 85.5 percent to 75.8 percent.
“This is a multidimensional challenge with no single fix,” admitted Paige. “But if we tackle it head on, I’m confident we’ll make progress. We’ll make progress for kids, for families, for our early childhood workforce, and for our local businesses. We can do it.”
All Carroll County residents interested in sharing their perspectives on the childcare crisis, including families, providers, local officials, and business owners, are invited by the special committee to join the hearing on April 19th, 5:30 PM, at the Conway Public Library Periodical Room.